The buzz around Google Glass continues, but it's not all good. Some in Congress are raising privacy issues around the futuristic product.
Eight members of the House Privacy Caucus sent a letter to Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page. They have some questions about the privacy aspects of Google Glass. And they want answers.
"As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of average Americans," the letter says. "Because Google Glass has not yet been released and we are uncertain of Google's plans to incorporate privacy protections into the device, there are still a number of answered questions that we share."
The caucus then puts forth eight questions:
1. How does Google plan to prevent Google Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user/non-user without consent?
2. What proactive steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Google Glass is in use? Are product lifecycle guidelines and frameworks, such as Privacy By Design, being implemented in connection with its product design and commercialization?
3. When using Google Glass, is it true that this product would be able to use Facial Recognition Technology to unveil personal information about whomever and even some inanimate objects that the user is viewing? Would a user be able to request such information? Can a non-user or human subject opt out of this collection of personal data? If so, how? If not, why not?
4. Would Google place limits on the technology and what type of information it can reveal about another person? If so, explain. If not, why not?
6. Would [device-specific] information be collected from users operating Google Glass? If so, what specific information is Google intending to collect? Would Google Glass collect any data about the user without the user's knowledge and consent? If so, why? If not, please explain.
7. To what extent was privacy considered in approving this app? Is Google planning to make privacy a priority for future app developers? If not, why not? If so, please explain.
8. Will Google Glass have the capacity to store any data on the device itself? If so, will Google Glass implement some sort of user authentication system to safeguard stored data? If not, why not? If so, please explain.
Does Google Have Answers?
Steve Lee, director of Glass, told Google I/O attendees that privacy was top of mind when designing Google Glass. Google also released a statement: "We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues. Our Glass Explorer program, which reaches people from all walks of life, will ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology."
We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. He told us Google is getting ever closer to being regulated. In fact, he said, regulation could be the next step.
"Google's disregard for privacy is resulting in a pretty heavy focus by the government," Enderle said. "If Google had gotten ahead of this problem, they wouldn't be getting letters like this. So it's like Google is walking kind of blindly into the trap that they set for Microsoft years ago."